BOSTON -- Convicted Mafia lieutenant Ilario M.A. Zannino, 67, made an impassioned plea for mercy. The judge handed the ailing mobster a virtual death sentence.
Described by prosecutors as 'vicious' and 'fanatical,' Zannino was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison despite his grim prediction: 'I know I'm going home in a box.'
Zannino was sentenced to five years for running an illegal poker game, 20 years for loansharking and five years for running an illegal dice game. The sentences are to be served consecutively. His attorney promised an appeal.
'The sentences that I now impose are warranted. Indeed, I think, required,' said U.S. District Court Judge David S. Nelson, who had ordered Zannino to face several short trials on a variety of charges due to his failing health.
He still faces charges of racketeering in connection with his alleged involvement in six murders and the plotting of two others over a 16-year period based on evidence gleaned from FBI wiretaps.
Before the sentence was announced, Zannino -- flanked by a paramedic and breathing oxygen through tubes attached to his nostrils -- pleaded for a maximum sentence of five years.
'I'm dying, your Honor. I don't expect to live more than a couple of years,' he said. 'I want my people to go home and be able to say, 'We might someday see daddy on the street.'
'You're the judge up there, but you have the judge above,' said Zannino, victim of three heart attacks, one of which led to his case being severed in 1985 from that of Boston mob leader Gennaro Angiulo and four others.
Angiulo and the others were all convicted last year on the same evidence from the wiretaps of his headquarters in Boston's North End Italian neighborhood. Angiulo is serving a 45-year prison term for racketeering.
Prosecutor Jane Serene recommended Zannino, who allegedly was the second-in-command to Angiulo, be sentenced to 45 years in prison.
'Ilario Zannino ... is most assuredly one of the most vicious, fanatical and dangerous criminals to have been before this court,' Serene said. 'Zannino is a cold-blooded professional killer. His enthusiasm for the Cosa Nostra is unparalleled.'
Defense attorney Joseph Balliro, who plans to appeal the convictions, refuted prosecution claims that a stiff sentence would deter other would-be criminals from following in Zannino's footsteps.
'In old England, they used to hang people as pickpockets, and the pickpockets had a heyday with the crowds at the hanging,' Balliro said.